British heavyweight Phil De Fries battled his way to a razor-thin majority decision victory over rising Russian Anton Vyazigin on Friday night as he enjoyed a successful M-1 Global debut at M-1 Challenge 84.

M-1 Challenge 84 took place at The Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia and marked the promotion’s 20th anniversary in MMA. The night’s action was headlined by two title fights as undefeated Russian prospects Alexey Kunchenko and Artem Frolov would walk away with the welterweight and middleweight titles respectively.

A physical battle from the very beginning, Sunderland’s De Fries would see most of his fight with Vyazigin take place in close quarters with the clinch playing a massive role in the outcome. In the early stages, despite the Russian playing aggressor, De Fries would land the better knees and body shots inside the clinch although there was little to separate the pair during a tentative opening round.

Vyazigin started the second stanza with an oblique kick as De Fries would constantly threaten the takedown by feinting his level changes and closing the distance. “F-11” was shutdown by the takedown defence of the Russian before they again found themselves in the clinch. The referee called for action before splitting the fighters as De Fries would successfully land two takedowns in quick succession with Vyazigin immediately getting back to his feet and the round ending with both engaged once again in the clinch.

The third round saw much of the same as the 31-year-old continued to look for a takedown as Vyazigin sprawled out. The Englishman started to fade as Vyazigin found his range and was starting to land cleaner strikes, however in the closing seconds, De Fries executed a potentially fight-winning trip takedown and found top position. From there, the Sunderland fighter rained down blows on his stuck opponent but could not get the finish before the final bell.

Awarded the majority decision win, former UFC heavyweight De Fries (13-6) is now 4-3 since leaving the promotion in 2013. Meanwhile, Vyazigin (8-2) will have to go back to the drawing board after the 24-year-old saw his five-fight win streak brought to an end.

Kunchenko makes quick work of Romanov in welterweight title defence

M-1 Global welterweight champion Alexey Kunchenko kept his undefeated record in tact as he made quick work of challenger Sergey Romanov via a first round TKO in M-1 Challenge 84’s main event.

Although Romanov came out and landed the opening strikes, Kunchenko would catch a low kick and immediately put the challenger on his back. Enjoying a brief period of top control, Kunchenko could not stop Romanov making his way back to his feet where he would display effective striking on the champion.

However it wasn’t long before Kunchenko uncorked a huge right hand, which landed flush on Romanov, and sent him down to the mat with a wobble. The champion quickly pounced on top, and after several unanswered clubbing blows to the head during ground and pound, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight.

After a third successive title defence, 33-year-old Kunchenko’s record now reads a perfect 17-0, with the majority of those wins coming under the M-1 Global banner, whilst Romanov fell to his first defeat since January 2014.

Elsewhere on the card, UFC veterans Caio Magalhaes and Joe Riggs fell to differing fortunes as the former lost out on a chance to claim the vacant middleweight title in a unanimous decision loss to undefeated local fighter Artem Frolov. Riggs, however, rolled back the years for a third round TKO finish over Oleg Olenichev for the 47th win of “Diesel’s” long and prolific career.

M-1 Challenge 84 Results

M-1 Welterweight Title: Alexey Kunchenko def. Sergey Romanov via TKO (Punches) (Round 1 – 2:35)

M-1 Middleweight Title: Artem Frolov def. Caio Magalhaes via Decision (Unanimous)

Middleweight Bout: Joe Riggs def. Oleg Olenichev via TKO (Punches) (Round 3 – 3:21)

Bantamweight Bout: Bair Shtepin def. Janne Elonen-Kulmala via Submission (Guillotine) (Round 3 – 4:44)

Lightweight Bout: Roman Bogatov def. Jani Salmi via Decision (Unanimous)

Middleweight Bout: Enoc Solves Torres def. Andrey Seledtsov via Submission (Armbar) (Round 1 – 0:44)

Heavyweight Bout: Phil De Fries def. Anton Vyazigin via Decision (Majority)

Featherweight Bout: Zalimbeg Omarov def. Sascha Sharma via Decision (Unanimous)

Welterweight Bout: Daniil Prikaza def. Akhmadian Ozdoev via Decision (Unanimous)

Welterweight Bout: Maksim Grabovich def. Timerlan Sharipov via Submission (Rear-naked Choke) (Round 3 – 1:57)

Light-Heavyweight Bout: Dmitry Tebekin def. Vasily Volodko via Decision (Unanimous)

Light-Heavyweight Bout: Ilya Bochkov def. Arkadiy Lisin via TKO (Punches) (Round 2 – 4:24)